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Voter Registration Exercise: Group Calls on EC to be fair to Ghanaians

Voter Registration Exercise: Group Calls on EC to be fair to Ghanaians
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By Edzorna Francis Mensah

A Political pressure group calling itself NDC E13 and Ally Caucus has called on the Electoral Commission to exercise fairness, inclusivity, and accessibility at the ongoing Limited Voters Registration Exercise which commenced on Tuesday, September 12, 2023.

According to the Group, the 2023 limited voter registration exercise “is a pivotal step towards ensuring every eligible Ghanaian’s right to vote”, in the upcoming 2024 Presidential and Parliamentary election which must not be “met with a mix of anticipation, skepticism, and concern”.

Famous Kwesi Kuadugah the Chairman in a statement issued in Accra has again called for fairness and equality in the process in order to extend Voter Registration exercise to Every Electoral Area as he mentioned the fact that, “democracy thrives when every citizen has an equal opportunity to participate. In Ghana, a nation that has long been a beacon of democratic values in West Africa, the very essence of these values is being tested”.

Below is the full statement:

Ghana’s 2023 Voter Registration Exercise: A Call for Fairness, Inclusivity, and Accessibility

Ghana, a beacon of democracy in West Africa, is once again at the crossroads of its electoral process. The 2023 limited voter registration exercise, a pivotal step towards ensuring every eligible Ghanaian’s right to vote, has been met with a mix of anticipation, skepticism, and concern. The Ghana Electoral Commission, in its bid to ensure that every eligible Ghanaian is given the opportunity to vote, periodically conducts a limited voter registration exercise. The exercise primarily aims to register citizens who have turned 18 since the last registration and those who missed previous opportunities. However, the current exercise has not been without its controversies.

Contrasting the Past with the Present:

In the past, the Electoral Commission has shown a broader reach in its registration exercises. For instance, even in 2019 under the same commissioner, the registration was conducted in 1,500 electoral area centers. Fast forward to 2023, and the number has drastically reduced to 268 district offices, despite an estimated backlog of 2.8 million potential registrants. This shift raises questions about the Commission’s commitment to inclusivity.

In addition, The EC has introduced new rules, including the controversial decision to make the Ghana Card the sole ID for registration. Also, misplaced voter ID cards will now be replaced at a fee. These changes, especially the restriction of registration to district offices, have been met with resistance, with concerns about accessibility for potential voters, especially those in remote and rural areas. The public’s trust in the electoral process is paramount, however, the current sentiments range from skepticism to outright distrust. Concerns about the timing, the potential for gerrymandering, targeted voter suppression and the accessibility issues due to the restriction to district offices dominate public discourse.

The Stance of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and other CSOs:

The NDC and other CSOs like Care Ghana have all been vocal about their concerns. Accusations of the EC sending faulty machines to some NDC strongholds and the deliberate difficulty and obstacles in the registration process in these NDC areas have been raised. The party’s National Chairman, Johnson Asiedu Nketsiah, has been at the forefront, highlighting the ploy for voter suppression in its strongholds among others. Despite the concerns and the calls for reconsideration, the EC has shown a certain level of recalcitrance. Their decision to proceed with the registration, even in the face of legal challenges and injunctions, is a testament to this. As feared by the NDC, the registration exercise has already faced technical hitches, as reported in the Abura-Asebu-Kwamankese (AAK) District on the first day when the registration started, causing delays and frustrations among registrants. A flawed voter registration process can have dire consequences for democracy. It can lead to voter suppression, mistrust in the electoral process, and ultimately, a threat to good governance.

A Call for Fairness and Equality: Bringing Voter Registration to Every Electoral Area

Democracy thrives when every citizen has an equal opportunity to participate. In Ghana, a nation that has long been a beacon of democratic values in West Africa, the very essence of these values is being tested. The decision by the Electoral Commission (EC) to limit the 2023 voter registration exercise to district centers, rather than every electoral area, threatens to undermine the inclusivity and fairness that are foundational to our democratic process.

At the heart of any democratic process is accessibility. Every Ghanaian, regardless of their socio-economic status or geographical location, should have easy access to voter registration centers. By restricting this exercise to district centers, the EC inadvertently places a burden on those in rural areas, many of whom lack the means or resources to travel long distances. In a nation where a significant portion of the population resides in rural areas, and where poverty can be a barrier to mobility, this decision risks disenfranchising a vast number of potential voters.

An inclusive democracy is one that actively seeks to eliminate barriers to participation. By conducting the voter registration exercise in every electoral area, the EC would be taking a proactive step towards ensuring that every eligible Ghanaian can easily register to vote. This approach not only makes logistical sense but is also in line with democratic principles that prioritize citizen engagement and participation.

Furthermore, many Ghanaians in rural areas live on tight budgets with little or no financial wherewithal to afford transportation cost to district registration centers. The additional cost of traveling to a district center – both in terms of money and time – can be prohibitive and discouraging. By requiring citizens to bear this cost, we are essentially placing a price tag on their democratic participation. This is antithetical to the very concept of democracy, which asserts that the right to vote should never be contingent upon one’s economic status. Trust in the electoral process is paramount for the stability and success of any democracy. By ensuring that the voter registration exercise is as accessible as possible, the EC can foster greater trust and confidence among the citizenry. Conversely, any perception of exclusion or unfairness can erode this trust, with long-term implications for national cohesion and democratic governance.

To Our Fellow Ghanaians and Esteemed NDC Sympathizers,

In the heart of Ghana’s vibrant democracy lies the power of the individual vote. It is the voice of the youth, the hopes of the elderly, and the dreams of every citizen yearning for a brighter future. To our young compatriots who have recently celebrated their 18th birthdays and those who have yet to register, we extend a heartfelt message: your vote is not just a right; it is a profound responsibility and a clarion call to shape the destiny of our beloved nation.

While we await the outcome of the crucial court case against the Electoral Commission, urging them to uphold the principles of fairness and inclusivity, we cannot afford to be passive. We call upon all members of the National Democratic Congress, from the grassroots to the highest echelons of our party hierarchy, to mobilize, organize, and dive headfirst into this exercise. It is imperative that we ensure every potential member is registered, every voice is heard, and no one is left behind.

Branch executives, constituency leaders, regional coordinators – now is the time for concerted action. Our collective strength lies in our unity, and every stone must be turned, every avenue explored, to ensure the success of this exercise.

Moreover, to those among us grappling with economic hardships, and feeling the weight of a distressed economy, we understand your struggles. But remember, the power to instigate change, to usher in a government that truly represents your interests, lies in your hands. This year’s limited voter registration presents not just an opportunity but a beacon of hope. By securing your voter ID card, you are arming yourself with the most potent tool to effect change come December 2024.

In conclusion, Voting is not just a right; it’s a cornerstone of democracy. Every Ghanaian, regardless of where they live or their economic circumstances, has an inalienable right to participate in the electoral process. We are by this statement calling on the Electoral Commission to reconsider its decision and prioritize the democratic principles of fairness, inclusivity, and accessibility. Let’s bring the registration closer to the people, ensuring that no Ghanaian is left behind in our collective journey towards a more perfect democracy.

Let this, also be a clarion call to all – whether you’re a staunch NDC supporter, a floating voter, or someone who believes in the promise of a brighter Ghana. Stand up, register, and let’s together pave the way for a future where our nation’s leadership truly reflects the will and aspirations of its people.

Focus “Victory for Better Ghana”,

NDC E13A NDALLY CAUCUS

Signed:

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